Edmonton Oilers Free Agency: Making the case for Conor Sheary

Edmonton Oilers, Conor Sheary. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Edmonton Oilers, Conor Sheary. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Here’s making the case for the Edmonton Oilers to sign free agent Conor Sheary

Now admittedly anymore UFA free agent signings we’ll have to find cap space for 1st, but my next 3 blogs will focus on strictly hockey moves the Edmonton Oilers can make to shore up the biggest need in their lineup other than foolishly squandering a roster spot on Mike Smith:  1st line LW.

There are still a number of guys who would be worth pursuing that can be had for cheap, and for this blog I’m going to focus on 1:  Conor Sheary.  Sheary is a guy who is used to playing the role that I would have him play:  solid complementary player to a superstar.  He did it for 192 out of his 325 NHL games in Pittsburgh next to Sidney Crosby, and it’s entirely possible that the same thing could happen here next to Connor Mcdavid.

Though there are players currently on the roster who could take that spot, there’s still plenty of space for 1 more as – even when Bear and Laggeson eventually get re-signed to new deals, the Oilers will still have 6 roster spots left to sign players for.

First, let’s play a little armchair GM.  Here’s the deal I give to Conor Sheary:

1 year, 1 way $1.5 million base salary contract

$250,000 bonus for scoring 15 goals

$250,000 bonus for scoring 20 goals

That means the most Sheary would cost us is $2 million for 1 year.  The risk is low but the reward is high when you consider what cheap scoring help would mean to the team and to Connor McDavid having the same guy on his port side all the time.  If he does well in his 1 year here, you could give him, say, $2.5 million a year for 3 years.

Sheary is only 28 years old so he’s got plenty of hockey left to play.  He isn’t much of a scorer unless he’s playing next to a superstar player – when he was traded to Buffalo his goal scoring went down from 23 and 18 goals in years 2 and 3 in Pittsburgh to 14 and 9 goals.  All of which means that he obviously didn’t have the same chemistry in Buffalo – presumably playing with Jack Eichel – that he had with Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh.

That happens to the best of them.  Wayne Gretzky was traded to the St. Louis Blues at the trade deadline in 1996 because it was thought that he and Brett Hull would form a lethal scoring duo for the Blues for the rest of the decade or so.  However, that didn’t work as that chemistry just didn’t materialize.  It made sense in principal, but it didn’t work in practice.  Between this and the fact he didn’t like Mike Keenan, Gretzky didn’t re-sign with St. Louis after the season was up.

Anyway, this contract is low cap hit and short term, enough to give Sheary a “show me” opportunity.  If he can develop chemistry with Crosby, maybe he can do it with Mcdavid, too.  He’s not an elite scorer by any means, but that’s the beauty of it – all we’d expect him to be is a complementary scorer.

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Even last season when he went back to Pittsburgh at the deadline he put up 1-3-4 in 8 games in the regular season and another 2 assists in 4 playoff games for the Pens.

He’s also very responsible in his own end – in his 1st 3 years in Pittsburgh he finished on the plus side of the ledger 2 out of 3 years – and it was when he finished +24 and +2.  The 1 year he finished below the line it was only at -1 and it was his rookie season so who can blame him?

Even if this contract doesn’t work out, his cap hit isn’t outrageous enough that he can’t be played in the bottom 6.  If he has to be stashed in the minors, then his cap hit goes down to US$600K, that’s it.  And then we let him walk at the end of the year.

Sheary also doesn’t just play at evens.  Last season he averaged 1:11/game on the PP and 1:21/game on the PK, which means he can play the 2nd units of both special teams as well.  1 more weapon to put on the #1 PP and #2 PK?  Sounds good to me.  For the record, he played 13:06 per game total and in that season when he scored 23 goals he was playing 15:56 per game.  Only 3 of his 10 goals were scored on the PP last year, so it’s not like he’s a PP specialist masquerading as a complete player.

He’s not a very physical player, as he only put up 28 hits and 26 blocked shots between Buffalo and Pittsburgh.  Sheary at this point is a player who is what he is but could still play a valuable role for us at a cheap contract.  What do you think?